For the month of October I’ve been trying to work on improving my posture. In the book Willpower, the authors reported on a study that found that simply reminding yourself to stand up straight can increase self-control and resolve in other areas of life. I’m waiting until the end of the month to evaluate my level of self control. In just two weeks, though, I have noticed a huge improvement in my posture, which is certainly a desired outcome.
In the comments to the post about setting my October resolution, reader Emily asked, “what are you planning to do to work on your posture?” This was a great question, seeing as changing any habit is difficult. What I am doing to help improve my posture might be beneficial to other people working on the same goal, or really anyone trying to change a bad habit. And, to be honest, so far the process has been pretty easy:
- I’ve posted sticky notes around the house — bathroom mirror, front of microwave, computer monitor, inside of front door — with “Stand Tall!” written on them. I’ve had to change the notes a few times because it has been easy to stop seeing them after a few days. If you are trying to change any habit, you could easily write similar messages to yourself: Hang up coat! Make bed! Do the dishes! Put clothes in the hamper!
- Dressing less casually. This is probably just me, but I tend to slouch less when I’m wearing nicer clothes. I keep telling myself I’m “dressing for success.” A similar external cue could work with helping achieve other goals. For example, washing the exterior of your car once a week could motivate you to keep the inside of it in a cleaner state.
- Balancing a book on my head while sitting at my desk. I don’t do this every time I sit down to write, but I do it enough that I think it is helping. I use a hardcover book without the jacket on it because the cover’s fabric-like texture helps it stay on my head. I’m not exactly sure how this could translate to helping with another goal.
- Abdominal, shoulder, and core exercises. The first week of October I was sore from switching up the muscles I regularly use in my belly, back, and shoulders. I decided to add a 15-minute core workout to my schedule three times a week. The muscle pain I was experiencing has gone, so I think it is helping. With other goals, identify a possible hurdle to success and instead of ignoring it, take care of it early on in the process.
- Publicly declaring the goal. Letting all of you know about my posture improvement goal has added a bit of pressure I might not feel otherwise. For many other goals, I can see how announcing to your friends that you’re working on a specific change in habit could be beneficial.
- I’ve also been giving myself a daily grade in my calendar as to how well I think I did on the goal. If I worked on standing up straight a fair amount and feel positive about my performance, I’ve awarded myself an A. Most days, especially those in the beginning, were mostly in the B or C range. Monitoring my actions has let me see that the process has become easier in the second week than it was in the first, which leads me to believe it will be even simpler in the last week of the month. This review process has definitely been beneficial.
What methods have you used to remind and motivate yourself to change a bad habit? Share your success strategies in the comments.